A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. (Prov. 12.10)
Cecil Frances Alexander, All Things Bright and Beautiful:
- All things bright and beautiful,
- All creatures great and small,
- All things wise and wonderful,
- The Lord God made them all.
While conscious of the distinction between Man and Beast (Jesus said, "Ye are of more value than many sparrows," Matt. 10.31), Puritans vehemently opposed the idea that the dominion of Man over the creatures of the earth gave license to abuse animals. In opposing certain popular sports of the day, such as bear-baiting, cockfighting, and the like, they took occasion to note that all of God's creatures, including those that men employ lawfully for their service and benefit, are also precious in His sight. Far from the fantastic notions of animal rights or even superiority over humans held by PETA, the Puritans were nevertheless counter-cultural in pioneering the basis for animal protections theologically and legislatively. The first codified animal protections in American jurisprudence are found in the Puritan Massachusetts Body of Liberties (1641), authored by Nathaniel Ward.
Of the Brute Creature
No man shall exercise any Tyranny or Cruelty toward any brute creature which are usually kept for man's use.
Thomas Edwards, Gangraena (1646), I.17:
...God loves the creatures that creep upon the ground as well as the best Saints; and there is no distance between the flesh of a Man, and the flesh of a Toad.
John Flavel, Husbandry Spiritualized (1669), Part III, Chap. II, Upon the hard labour and cruel usage of Beasts, in Works, p. 166 (a poetic meditation concerning a poor, overworked horse):
What hath this creature done, that he should be
Thus beaten, wounded and tir'd out by me?
He is my fellow-creature;
Robert Bolton, General Directions for a Comfortable Walking With God (1625, 1991, 1995), p. 179:
Bathe not thy recreations in blood; refresh not thy tired mind with spectacles of cruelty. Consider the rule which divines give about recreations, that we must not make God's judgments and punishments of sin, either upon man or beast, the matter or object of them. Now, the best divines hold, that enmity amongst themselves was a fruit of our rebellion against God, and more general judgment inflicted upon the creature after the fall. Which misery, coming upon them by our means, should rather break our hearts and make them bleed, than minister matter of glorying in our shame, and vexing those very vexations which our impiety hath put upon them. Alas, sinful man, what a heart hast thou, that canst take delight in the cruel tormenting of a dumb creature! Is it too much for thee to behold with dry eyes that feaful brand which only thy sin hath impressed upon it; but thou must barbarously, also, press its opressions, and make thyself merry with the bleeding miseries of that poor, harmless thing, which, in its kind, is much more, and far better, serviceable to the Creator than thyself?
Philip Stubbes, The Anatomie of Abuses in England (1583, 1879), Part 1, pp. 177-178, 182:
For is not the baiting of a Bear, besides that it is a filthy, stinking and loathsome game, a dangerous and perilous exercise?...What Christian heart can take pleasure to see one poor beast to rent, tear, and kill another, and all for his foolish pleasure? And although they be bloody beasts to mankind, and seek his destruction, yet we are not to abuse them, for his sake who made them, and whose creatures they are. For notwithstanding that they be evil to us, and thirst after our blood, yet are they good creatures in their own nature and kind, and made to set forth the glory and magnificence of the great God, and for our use; and therefore for his sake not to be abused. It is a common saying amongst all men, borrowed from the French, Qui aime Iean, aime son chien; love me, love my dog: so, love God, love his creatures.
If necessity, or want of other meats, inforceth us to seek after their lives, it is lawful to use them, in the fear of God, with thanks to his name; but for our pastimes and vain pleasures' sake, we are not in any wise to spoil or hurt them. Is he a Christian man, or rather a pseudo-Christian, that delighteth in blood?